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Importance of riparian habitat for frugivorous bats in a tropical dry forest in western Mexico

  • Mariana Zarazúa-Carbajal (a1), Luis Daniel Avila-Cabadilla, Mariana Yólotl Alvarez-Añorve, Julieta Benítez-Malvido (a1) and Kathryn E. Stoner (a1)...

Riparian forests (RF) provide shelter, feeding resources and commuting areas and are fundamental for local fauna during long drought periods in tropical dry forests. Nevertheless, information regarding vertebrate ecology in tropical RF is scarce. The studies of bats in riparian habitats have been mostly focused on insectivorous assemblages in non-tropical regions. We contrasted the occurrence of frugivorous bats between RF and upland dry forest (UDF) in a Neotropical dry forest region and evaluated how vegetation structure modulates frugivorous bat presence and abundance. We sampled bat ensembles and vegetation structure in three UDF and three RF sites in Jalisco, Mexico. Bat ensembles and populations were analysed with generalized linear models, including as independent factors: (1) habitat and (2) vegetation attributes. In 72 nights we captured 840 bats belonging to seven species. No effect of habitat type or vegetation structure on species richness was found, but habitat type did affect bat species composition and abundance. Moreover, vegetation structural traits affected frugivorous bat abundance. Frugivore abundance was higher in RF than in UDF probably because RF provides greater resources and more roosting sites. Riparian forests also present more canopy cover and accessible flight spaces. Our results support the importance of RF for frugivorous bats in terms of abundance and composition. Additionally, the lack of differences in species richness between UDF and RF highlights the importance of both habitats for maintaining frugivorous bats, as well as the related ecosystem processes and services in tropical dry forest landscapes.

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